With increasing health-consciousness, there have cropped up a mind-boggling variety of diets that claim to help you lose weight. And out of all these, probably the most popular diet is the intermittent fasting diet. It’s not exactly a diet, but more a way of eating that goes back a million years ago. Intermittent fasting is the new talk of the town, and many people swear by its benefits on overall health and lifestyle.
Before I get to the benefits of intermittent fasting, let us first know what exactly intermittent fasting is.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent means “discontinuous” and “periodic”, while fasting means not eating any food. Combine the two meanings, and you get the definition of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is basically a pattern of eating where you eat your meals in a short time-window and do not eat anything in the rest of the time. For example, if you eat your meals between 8 am to 4 pm every day and do not consume a single calorie otherwise, you are intermittent fasting. In this particular case, your eating window is 8 hours long, and you fast for 16 hours every day. Also, you need to be clear that your eating window starts at exactly the same time every day. You cannot eat in any random 8-hour long time window during the day. Your time window needs to start and end at the same time every day.
Now, you may say that you are fasting every day because you sleep 8 hours a day and eat in the remaining 16 hours. That may be true in a way. But intermittent fasting is actually when your fast is more than 12 hours long. When you fast for longer than that, your body goes into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a state where your body starts burning stored fat for fuel. Before that it is using the carbs you ate for energy, and not the stored fat. To bring your body into ketosis you need to fast for long enough that your body uses up the food you ate. Then you will actually start burning fat. This is the actual principle behind intermittent fasting.
How to do it?
Intermittent fasting is very simple. All you have to do is eat in a set window of time. Make sure that you don’t eat anything during the rest of the day. The most popular way of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 fast. In this, as you can guess, one eats in an 8-hour window, and fasts for the remaining 16 hours. An example of the 16:8 fasting would be having your first meal at 1 pm, and your last meal at 9 pm. This time division is easier than you think because you are only skipping breakfast. For most of us, skipping breakfast or dinner is not that big of a deal.
To suit your needs, you can have as short or as long of an eating window throughout the day. Many people also use a more extreme 20:4 fasting method. So they will generally only eat either in the morning or at night, and fast the rest of the day. The 16:8 method is considered optimal because it is easy to follow and doesn’t make you feel hungry. But if you think you can do better than this, go ahead!
The principle behind this is that if you eat in a given period of time, you can’t overeat. People generally tend to overeat because they eat continuously throughout the day. So they do not realize that even though they think they’re eating less, they’re eating a lot. But if you eat in a short interval of time, you can’t possibly overstuff yourself. If you have watched the 10000 calorie challenges on YouTube, you will these people starting their challenge at 5 am and eating till midnight. They do so because it is possible to eat a lot when you eat throughout the day. Not with intermittent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Now let us come to the interesting part- the benefits of intermittent fasting. So here are some of them-
You lose weight
This is the most obvious, and the most popular reason why people intermittent fast. Like I explained above, it is impossible to overeat in a short period of time. One cannot eat more than one’s appetite. And if you make healthy food choices, you will eat way fewer calories than with normal eating. Now obviously you won’t lose weight if your maintenance calories are 1600 and you eat a 2000 kcal pizza and say you are intermittent fasting. So it is important to make healthy food choices. But you can eat bigger meals as long as they’re healthy, without gaining weight.
You have more time
How is this a benefit? Well, you have set yourself a short period of time for eating. So for the rest of the day, you don’t have to bother about cooking meals or ordering food. You are left with more time on hand that you can use to do more productive work. The time that you spend on cooking meals is drastically cut down. This especially works for people who work from home or are freelancers. They can spend more time focusing on work rather than worrying about cooking or ordering food. The shorter your time window, the more tie you save. So if you are a busy person or looking to increase productivity, intermittent fasting is for you.
You have more energy
Yes, contrary to popular belief about fasting this IS true. When you are eating all day, your insulin levels are high. Most of us are aware of the comfortable drowsy feeling that overcomes us when we have just downed a big meal. This is because the body requires energy to digest food, which kind of depletes you of energy. Also, the release of hormones like serotonin and melatonin after a meal makes you drowsy. Big meals tend to weigh you down, so you feel lethargic and don’t feel like moving a lot. When you are fasting, you have more energy because there is no food weighing you down. Your serotonin levels are under control and you are more alert than after a big meal.
It increases insulin sensitivity
Intermittent fasting balances your blood sugar. When you have food in your system, your blood sugar spikes and so does your insulin. If you are constantly eating, your blood sugar will always be higher than normal. This will make your body immune to such levels of blood sugar and decrease insulin sensitivity. By fasting, you ensure that your blood sugar only spikes for a certain period of time. During the rest of the time, it stays stabilized and under control. Hence insulin sensitivity is improved, which in turns reduces the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
You keep the weight off for longer
Intermittent fasting is way more sustainable than any other diet. Other diets are guilty of calorie restriction or food restriction. Restrictions and impositions like these often make you feel deprived. And trust me, deprivation is not a good thing. We crave what we can’t have the most. And if your will power is weak, you will end up overeating. Intermittent doesn’t impose any restrictions on the kind of food you are eating, or even the amount. You can easily include your favorite foods in your diet (in moderation) with IF. This way, your weight loss “diet” isn’t really a diet, and you don’t feel deprived. If you don’t feel deprived, you don’t overeat, and as a result, you keep the weight off for longer.
It regulates your body processes
People think eating constantly increases metabolism because your body keeps working to burn that food off. But in that process, other body processes get halted. Your brain is so focused on regulating your digestive system, it can’t make time for anything else. This is the reason why overeating and obesity are related to hormonal problems, cardiac problems, and inflammation. By giving yourself a break from eating, you also give your body a break from digesting and burning food. All the other processes are regulated, hormones become more balanced, and you become healthier overall.
Intermittent is a lifestyle choice, one that can easily be adopted by you. It was our ancestors’ way of living when food was much more scarce. Today, food is so readily available that we take it for granted. This accessibility has a great contribution in making us overeat. Intermittent fasting is just a way to go back to the olden days when people only ate when they got food. And let’s face it, our ancestors have always been healthier than us. So we too should go back to where our roots lie and adopt a healthy lifestyle.